In just a couple of days, I will walk across a stage and receive a diploma commemorating the completion of a seminary degree in theology. It would be easier to just get the paper in the mail, but I’m making the journey to California because I want to celebrate this milestone as a marker of three years of perseverance and God’s faithfulness. To say I’m excited, relieved, and grateful would be an understatement.
Two of my final courses required a reflection paper of my seminary journey, so I thought it would be fitting to share with you some of those insights. I’m guessing there are many of you who are considering whether it’s worth it to pursue a seminary degree. Maybe someone has told you it’s not worth the time, money, and effort. Maybe they’ve told you women shouldn’t pursue a seminary degree. Believe me, I’ve heard it all. But I’m glad I did. Here’s why:
1. Seminary gives you the opportunity to study Scripture like you’ve never studied it before. I don’t care how many Bible studies you’ve done or whether you’re a master of Bible study methods. Seminary classes challenge you to examine God’s Word through the lens of academia. You’ll learn how to choose reliable commentaries, how to interpret the original language, and how to articulate truths to others. You’ll learn what Scripture meant, what it means, and what it means today.
2. Seminary gives you the opportunity to be grounded in theology and church history. When someone asks you if children who die go to heaven, do you know Scripture that supports their eternity? When you are asked about your theology of the Holy Spirit, can you aptly share His role and His indwelling? When someone asks whether you are a Calvinist, do you know the history behind those thoughts? Do you know how the church began, how it changed, and the challenges it faced? If not, seminary will give you a foundation for good theology and history.
3. Seminary gives you the opportunity to explore various facets of practical ministry. Courses in pastoral counseling, evangelism, and teaching methods were classes where I learned the “how to’s” of ministry. Those classes definitely don’t make me an expert, but I’ve been exposed to new practices I can incorporate in my ministry to women.
4. Seminary gives you the opportunity to read outside your comfort zone. Until seminary, I was unfamiliar with the works of many well-known theologians. Even if I knew their names, I probably hadn’t read their works. My mind has been expanded and challenged to read more than short blogs and leadership books. Reading “hard” books is good for the brain—and good for the soul.
5. Seminary gives you the opportunity to learn from others who are in the trenches of ministry. In one of my first classes, a classmate was a church planter in a difficult area of the western part of the United States. He was a seminary student, worked at a local restaurant to provide for his family with four children, and he was starting a new church. I had a new appreciation for the sacrifice of those who want to learn and lead at the same time. I’ve developed friendships with students who are missionaries overseas, lay people who just want to be a better student of God’s Word, and many who are serving local churches and ministries.
Maybe you’ve considered seminary and, like me, have put it off for a long time. Let me encourage you to take the summer to pray about whether you should take the leap. Research various seminaries and the programs they offer. Ask others about their experience and determine which program will provide you the best option. Don’t be discouraged. You can do it. I’m glad I did.
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.